Parents call me all the time asking about GLA, but often it emerges that they don’t even know how to think about choosing a summer program. They’re bombarded by a ton of catalogs and often just select whichever organization has the prettiest catalog. Obviously, this is not the best way to figure out where to send your teenage son or daughter.
Our calls usually turn into sessions where I help parents construct a mental framework to think about all the summer program options available. Here are some of the key questions to ask:
1. Honestly (really, honestly) how emotionally mature and globally minded is your child? This can help you answer whether they are even ready for an international program. If you’re not sure if they’re ready, then maybe start with a 1 week program in Latin America. If they have already traveled extensively with school or family, then let them go further out.
2. What is the objective of doing the summer program? Is it purely for fun? Is it to foster personal development? Is it to earn some needed community service hours? Is it to explore a personal passion about a certain part of the world? Its amazing how many families haven’t asked themselves what they hope to get out of the program. Start with the general goal and then work backwards.
3. What kind of peer group do you want your child to be surrounded by? Is it an all-American group? Do all the students come from the same part of the USA? Is the student body diverse? If so, in which way?
Global Leadership Adventures prides itself on trying to recruit an international student body. Although the majority of students still come from the USA and UK, we have students from throughout Africa, Asia, Latin America. For some families, this is not what they want. For others, getting their son or daughter to be part of an international student body is a unique benefit.
I realize now that there are a lot more things to consider when choosing a teen volunteer abroad program. I will continue this thread in a separate post.